CA Report: Top Two Dramatically Changes California Politics

OpenPrimaries.Org has just released a paper co-authored by Jason Olson, Director of IndependentVoice.Org, on the impact of the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary in California. It finds that the enactment of the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary in California has had three significant consequences since it went into effect in 2012:

1) More competitive elections. California elections are now the most competitive in the nation, with a record number of incumbents defeated under the new system. Additionally, the nonpartisan nature of Top Two has created competition even in districts where one major party holds a significant advantage over the other with the introduction of “same-party races”.

2) All voters have the right to equal participation. Under the old partisan system, nearly 80% of California’s legislative and Congressional races were decided in the primary. This discouraged participation from or outright excluded voters not associated with the majority party of their district. Under the new system, all voters now have full access to both the first and final round of the election process. This has forced candidates to appeal beyond their party’s base.

3) A functional legislature. California is no longer a national symbol for legislative dysfunction. Members of the legislature, who must now be elected by building diverse coalitions of voters rather than toeing the party line, head to Sacramento incentivized to continue similar outreach while in office.

We believe that the rapid and transformative impact of Top Two in California can serve as a blueprint for others looking to reduce legislative dysfunction and voter disengagement.